Tony Blair finally has delivered a grudging condemnation of the manner of the execution of Saddam Hussein.
The Prime Minister ended days of silence on the manner in which the hanging was carried by saying it was "completely wrong". But Mr Blair said the taunting at the hanging should not "blind us to the crimes he committed against his own people".
He was forced into criticising the conduct of the hanging by the Iraqi government after it was attacked as "deplorable" by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor. However, his words were less forceful than either of his cabinet colleagues.
Mr Blair will be under pressure to be unequivocal in his criticism of the Shia-led government of Nouri al-Maliki at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons today. President George Bush has said the hanging should have been more dignified, but until last night Mr Blair had refused to comment, relying instead on statements through his official spokesman.
Mr Blair, who has faced criticism for his public silence on the execution, was questioned at a Downing Street press conference with the Prime Minister of Japan about video of the execution as new pictures emerged of Saddam's body lying on a table with evidence of a wound around his neck.
Mr Blair's reluctance to criticise the hanging reflects anxiety in Downing Street about destabilising the Iraqi government, which faces the threat of all-out civil war between Shias and minority Sunnis who saw Saddam Hussein as their leader.Reuse content